To Recover Confidence: Right worship, Right praise is the most missional thing you can do.

Many years ago, I came across an old book written by a former Bishop of Southwell, which had the title: “To recover Confidence”. In this book, Bishop F.R. Barry was doing what Bishops do. Very simply, he was issuing a rallying cry to the Church in his day. He called them to a renewed confidence in Christ and his purposes for the Church.

Now, it probably tells you something important about us as the people of God that every so often we need things like this to be done; and of course, our own day is no exception. Without exaggerating, the anxiety of many Christians today, I would suggest, is all too evident and this I think is for a couple of reasons in particular. Firstly, because we assess and measure ourselves in all the wrong ways and secondly, because we`re all too inclined to believe the black propaganda.

So, many years later when another Bishop described the Church of England as rather like an elderly lady sitting in a corner muttering to herself… I don`t think he appreciated how images like that can become something of a self-fulfilling prophecy.

And those wo didn`t go into depression went into something resembling frenzy and panic. Because, everywhere the cry went up that we need to be more `relevant` (a questionable assumption to which I shall return) and become far too anxious and busy. Essentially, all we`ve really done is begin resemble, not so much the old lady in the corner but a perpetual adolescent… We`re held captive by the spirit of the age and we live under the tyranny of constantly pursuing the new and the novel. All the while forgetting, it seems to me… our most fundamental task, which I`d like us to pray about today: Worship.

Now, you might wish to differ with me somewhat. Surely, you might insist; the past generation has seen huge changes in worship; it`s been a primary focus for our attention. But let`s be clear, there`s nothing `Seeker-Sensitive` about worship in Scripture. We don`t see anyone `Freshly Expressing` anything. It`s not Café-shaped, Messy nor (and this is the point) … nor is it designed with any motive in mind other than the offering of all life, honour and praise to the God of our Lord and Saviour Jesus the Christ. You see we entirely miss the point when we turn questions about worship into arguments about Orders of Service or whether we can make Church or what happens here especially relevant or appealing.

Because dear friends, you are not here to put on a weekly pageant that might be acceptable to those who are not `in Christ`. You`re not here to offer something which soothes or colludes with the concerns, aspirations, interests and conceits of a world that wants to live as if God is not God. On the contrary, you are here to help people learn to speak `Christian`… or as someone put it, you are here to “lead creation in the worship of the creator”. You are here to present an alternative way of being a world and a better way of being human.

I so often wonder, where on earth did we get the notion that worship is about `meeting needs`? No, worship is about God. Worship is its own reward. Right Worship, right praise is our calling… without one eye on what other people might think. No, if worship is for our benefit at all the only `need` it addresses is our need to be transformed into the likeness of Christ. And this happens in two ways….

Firstly, worship remind us of both who we are and whose we are. What I mean is that the very act of gathering in obedience to the Sabbath command is that we put down a marker as to where our true and ultimate loyalties lie. You see, I don`t think we have begun to appreciate how radical and thoroughly subversive a thing it is to worship. It is… or at least should be… regarded as absolute dynamite. Ask some of our many persecuted brothers and sisters what happens when day by day week by week you persist in reminding the world; anyone within earshot of its true king.

Because that`s what we learn of Jesus in that Epiphany Reading today isn`t it? (Matthew 2.1-12) The coming of the Christ; the world`s true King threw everyone (especially those who considered themselves to be someone) into an absolute panic. Why? Because his very presence exposes our real problem: idolatry. The attempt to live as if God is not God. In the birth of Jesus the Christ, the Kingdom of self… and the Kingdoms of the world are `on notice`. Because, the question is never `whether` we worship but `what or whom`. And to a world that seems obsessed with matters of identity and persists in attempting find their sense of who they are in things less than God, worship gets things the right way around.

And this is the second thing: You see worship `forms` us in our true identity, as sons and daughters of this King. We mustn`t domesticate or turn passages such as the one we heard a moment ago, into little children’s` stories. Remember, those visitors from the East `paid him homage ` but that act of worship changed them. They didn`t go `back to Herod`, to the recognised authority; because we`re told “they left for their own country by another road”. (Matthew 2.12) My point is that this is what we must learn to expect from our gathering here: Formation in Discipleship.

Jesus tells us, “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also”. (Matthew 6.21) In our worship, just like the wise men, we hand over our treasures… our loves… the things which most drive, motivate and enthuse us. And here`s the thing… We offer them for trans-formation. We expect to leave here by another road… with our loves trans-formed. So, I`m calling us to a renewed confidence today and I`m suggesting that confidence will come as we re-engage with what it means to worship; as we kneel before the king of kings. It really does begin and end with God; the one Revelation calls the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end.

And if I were to offer one practical step I would suggest that you immerse yourself in the Book of Psalms. Not just because it`s the book which taught our Lord to pray… but because it has nurtured the Church in a true Vision of God from the very beginning. I was taught a long time ago that if you`re going to learn to pray, you need to read at least one Psalm every day. And what`s true for us individually is especially true of us as a Church. Place the Psalms at the heart of your worship….

You could do worse than begin with Psalm 115. Not least because the writer takes a well-aimed and comedic shot at the shallowness and stupidity of the world`s idolatry. He pokes fun at the nations by saying:

Their idols are silver and gold, the work of human hands.

They have mouths, but do not speak; eyes, but do not see.

They have ears, but do not hear; noses, but do not smell.

They have hands, but do not feel; feet, but do not walk;

   they make no sound in their throats.

But then he ends by saying:

Those who make them are like them; so are all who trust in them. (Psalm 115 4-8)

Again, the writer`s point is that it is never a matter of `whether` we worship… but WHAT we worship. And in the end, we will always come to resemble the desire of our hearts…We become like the thing…the god we worship.

Dear friends, in times of change and uncertainty you will find the confidence to be faithful as you centre your lives in worship; the worship of the true and living God revealed in Jesus the Christ. Right worship, Right praise is the most Christ-like and therefore the most missional thing you can do. Our prayer is that in worship you should be transformed into the likeness of Christ… that you will bear his image to those with whom you live and work. It all begins here. You become what you worship…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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2 thoughts on “To Recover Confidence: Right worship, Right praise is the most missional thing you can do.

  1. Pingback: Sunday Worship | Christianity 201

  2. Thank you for your sermon. I do think that matters of confidence just point to a church without Calvery. I think that really speaking we are called to be broken. Jesus was broken for us and we need to say yes to being broken for him as we seek to follow Him. Confidence relates to self. As does trying to do anything.So many Christians have self at the centre and by talking about confidence that illustrates my point self confidence Jesus never taught but to take up your cross daily in the daily distresses and humiliations that will naturally come your way. To understand the tremendous gift of the forgiveness of sins and to avail yourself of this blessing each time that self is in the ascendency for one reason or another. Jesus says too that when we come and confess our sins he will make us as white as the driven snow. We can then come and ask Him to fill us with His Holy Spirit because we are then humble empty vessels that can then be filled with Himself. Also you cannot be as white as the driven snow and not be healed
    too,body mind and spirit. But that healing is an act of faith. The gospel are full of the stories of healing that occur with the forgiveness of sins.
    Christians need to be different from the world. Coming consistently for forgiveness is not a miserable thing but a joyful receiving of His life and peace so that like Paul we can say. I only want to know Christ crucified. William temple said that the only thing he could do was to come to Christ with His sin. The Gospel’s primary message is the death of Jesus and all that the atonement means. We are baptised into that death continually especially in these times which afford so many opportunities to come to be cleansed of all the sins related to self. We live in an increasing selfish world that no one can be in doubt. In order to be Christian He must be the one reigning in each of us and the only thing that stops this happening is our sins. Many of us don’t know our sins but we can ask Him to show us them. The world does not recognise sin hardly at all and the church like the world needs to have a greater understanding of it. Together with the importance of confession far too little prominence is given to this. How many battle songs in worship are sung these days.
    The primary message is life through death. If that was the churches reality they would have something to sing about.

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